Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 50 / 14 December 2017
 

Lesbian pastor rebuked for marrying same-sex couples

A lesbian pastor who married same-sex couples in 2008 when the unions were legal in California has been rebuked by her denomination for presiding over the gay nuptials.

After hearing testimony this week, including from the couples married by the pastor, the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Redwoods Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) today (Friday, August 27) upheld 3 of 4 charges against the Rev. Dr. Jane Adams Spahr.

The commissioners ruled that she “violated her ordination vows” by presiding at the marriages of same-gender couples.

Yet the commissioners also called on the church to re-examine its policies toward same-sex marriage. In their decision, which can be read online here,  they beseeched the church “to reexamine our own fear and ignorance that continues to reject the inclusiveness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ” because “in the reality in which we live today, marriage can be between same gender as well as opposite gender persons, and we, as a church, need to be able to respond to this reality as Dr. Jane Spahr has done with faithfulness and compassion.”

In a statement responding to the decision, Spahr said she and her legal team are deciding whether to appeal the ruling.

“This is such a sad moment for the Church” stated Spahr, who has been a minister for 36-years. “Today, the Church rejected God’s amazing hospitality and welcome. It deeply troubles and saddens me.”

Scott Clark, of Rev. Spahr’s legal defense team, denounced the ruling as going against the Presbyterian Church’s constitutional mandates of full inclusion, non-discrimination, and Christ-like pastoral care.

“It’s a sad day for our church when it decides to turn its back on its own mandates, sanction a faithful minister who has dedicated her life to God, and tell committed and loving couples that God’s welcome doesn’t extend to them,” stated Clark.

Eleven gay and lesbian couples from the San Francisco Bay Area and across the nation, along with expert witness, Deborah Krause, Academic Dean and Professor of New Testament at Eden Theological Seminary in Missouri, testified during the trial proceedings, which began on Tuesday, August 24. Supporters of Rev. Spahr filled the Fellowship Hall of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Napa, California, where the trial proceedings took place.

“I have always looked upon the Presbyterian Church as a church that includes all of God’s children. Today, I learned it doesn’t and it’s a revelation that shocks and saddens me,” stated Kathryn Mudie of Novato, California who was married to Susan McDaniel by Rev. Spahr in 2008. The couple has been together for over 26 years.

Four years ago the 67-year-old Spahr faced a similar trial for marrying same-sex couples.She won that trial but church officials appealed and won a censure of her from a regional church body.

Ultimately, the church’s General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission overturned the censure of the reverend by the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Synod of the Pacific.

— Matthew S. Bajko, August 27, 2010 @ 1:49 pm PST
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